Showing posts with label permanent revolution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label permanent revolution. Show all posts

Friday, October 18, 2019

On The 60th Anniversary Defend The Gains Of The Cuban Revolution- From The Pages of "Workers Vanguard"-Cuba: Economic Crisis and “Market Reforms”-Defend Gains of Cuban Revolution!

In Honor of Anniversary Of The July 26th Movement

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman (2015)

Every leftist, hell, everybody who stands on the democratic principle that each nation has the right to self-determination should cautiously rejoice at the “defrosting” of the long-time diplomatic relations between the American imperial behemoth and the island of Cuba (and the freedom of the remaining Cuban Five in the bargain). Every leftist militant should understand that each non-capitalist like Cuba going back to the establishment of the now defunct Soviet Union has had the right (maybe until we win our socialist future the duty) to make whatever advantageous agreements they can with the capitalist world. That despite whatever disagreements we have with the political regimes ruling those non-capitalist states. That is a question for us to work out not the imperialists.

For those who have defended the Cuban Revolution since its victory in 1959 under whatever political rationale (pro-socialist, right to self-determination, or some other hands off policy) watching on black and white television the rebels entering Havana this day which commemorates the heroic if unsuccessful efforts at Moncada we should affirm our continued defense of the Cuban revolution. Oh yes, and tell the American government to give back Guantanamo while we are at it.    

Workers Vanguard No. 986
16 September 2011

Defend Gains of Cuban Revolution!

Cuba: Economic Crisis and “Market Reforms”

For Workers Political Revolution! For Socialist Revolution Throughout the Americas!

In early August, Cuba’s National Assembly endorsed a five-year program of market-oriented economic reforms that had been adopted by the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in the spring. The projected measures include the elimination of over a million state jobs (20 percent of the workforce), major cuts to state subsidies, a greatly expanded small-business sector and enhanced incentives to attract foreign investment.

From the time they were first announced, in August 2010, the centerpiece of the “market reforms” has been the call to eliminate a million state jobs. The bureaucracy of the state-controlled Cuban Workers Federation (CTC) has been prominent in promoting these cuts, shamelessly claiming they are essential to “continue perfecting socialism.” At this year’s May Day demonstration in Havana, the CTC marched under a call for “unity, productivity and efficiency.”

Originally, half the job cuts were supposed to take effect by March, but this deadline came and went. The Communist Party congress the following month was then supposed to set them in motion, but it decided to again postpone their implementation in the face of reported widespread discontent. As early as last October, Reuters news agency reported that party officials had to be brought to the Habana Libre Hotel to “calm workers down” when they learned of the planned job losses. Laid-off workers will only briefly get severance payments of up to 60 percent of lost monthly wages.

The stated aim of the “reforms” is to revive Cuba’s stagnant economy, which has never fully recovered from the severe crisis that followed the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union some two decades ago. Despite the rule of a Stalinist bureaucracy, the Soviet workers state provided a crucial economic lifeline for this small, impoverished island struggling to survive under the shadow of the American imperialist behemoth. The Soviet Union also represented a military obstacle to Washington’s revanchist counterrevolutionary ambitions.

The severe economic problems of the post-Soviet period were heightened in 2008 when Cuba was hit hard by the global capitalist financial crisis. The price of nickel, Cuba’s main export commodity, fell by as much as 80 percent, while remittances from Cubans living in the U.S. declined substantially. In the same year, hurricanes destroyed $10 billion of infrastructure. Facing a trade deficit of nearly $12 billion, Cuba had to default on payments to foreign creditors. The fact that Cuban doctors and other professionals working abroad account for about 60 percent of the country’s hard-currency earnings, with the tourist industry second, speaks to the dire state of the Cuban economy.

Bourgeois and leftist commentators alike have seized on the regime’s recent announcements to make wildly varying predictions. These range from fatuous optimism about isolated Cuba’s prospects for advancing toward socialism to claims that capitalism is being, or has been, restored on the island. To understand why such views are fallacious requires a Marxist understanding of the class nature of the Cuban state and its ruling Stalinist bureaucracy.

We Trotskyists do not take a side in the debate between advocates of market reforms/decentralization and those who would return to a more rigidly centralized economy. Our starting point is the understanding that Cuba is a bureaucratically deformed workers state, a society where capitalism has been overthrown but political power is monopolized by a parasitic ruling caste whose privileges derive from administering the collectivized economy. As the example of China shows, there is an inherent tendency for such regimes to abandon bureaucratized central planning in favor of market mechanisms. Intrinsically hostile to workers democracy, they resort to the discipline of the market (and the unemployment line) as a whip to raise labor productivity.

Despite the distortions of bureaucratic rule, first under Fidel Castro and now under his brother and longtime lieutenant Raúl, Cuba’s workers and peasants have gained enormously from the overthrow of capitalism. The elimination of production for profit through collectivization of the means of production, combined with central economic planning and a state monopoly over foreign trade and investment, provided jobs, housing and education for everyone and removed the yoke of direct imperialist domination. Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world and a renowned health care system. Infant mortality is lower than in the U.S., Canada and the European Union. Abortion is a free, readily available health service.

The International Communist League stands for the unconditional military defense of the Cuban deformed workers state against imperialism and internal capitalist counterrevolution. We call for an end to Washington’s crippling economic embargo and demand that the U.S. get out of Guantánamo Bay. At the same time, we call on the Cuban proletariat to sweep away the Castroite bureaucracy through a political revolution, establishing a regime of workers democracy. This is the only way to redress the endemic corruption, inefficiencies and shortages due to bureaucratic mismanagement, which arrest economic growth and create huge dislocations.

Leon Trotsky’s explanation of the material roots of the Soviet bureaucracy in his 1937 book The Revolution Betrayed can equally be applied to the Cuban regime today:

“The basis of bureaucratic rule is the poverty of society in objects of consumption, with the resulting struggle of each against all. When there are enough goods in a store, the purchasers can come whenever they want to. When there is little goods, the purchasers are compelled to stand in line. When the lines are very long, it is necessary to appoint a policeman to keep order. Such is the starting point of the power of the Soviet bureaucracy. It ‘knows’ who is to get something and who has to wait.”

From the inception of the Cuban workers state, the ruling bureaucracy has acted as an obstacle to the further advance toward socialism—a classless, egalitarian society requiring qualitatively higher levels of production than even the most advanced capitalist country. Instead the Stalinists purvey the myth of “socialism in one country,” which in practice means opposition to the perspective of workers revolution internationally and accommodation to world imperialism and its neocolonial clients through a policy of “peaceful coexistence.”

A Cuba ruled by elected workers and peasants councils—open to all parties that defend the revolution—would be a beacon for working people throughout Latin America and beyond. The ultimate answer to Cuba’s economic backwardness and the only road to a future of material abundance, social equality and personal freedom is international proletarian revolution—not least in the U.S. imperialist bastion—leading to rational global economic planning and an egalitarian socialist order. The necessary corollary to this perspective is the forging of a Trotskyist party in Cuba, part of a reborn Fourth International, to lead a proletarian political revolution to victory.

The “Special Period” and Bureaucratic “Reform”

While the proposed “market reforms” are deepgoing, the kind of policies they represent are hardly new for Cuba. Starting around 1993, i.e., shortly after the destruction of the Soviet Union, the Castro regime undertook a set of market-oriented policies to address the self-described “Special Period.” These included the legalization of self-employment and individual U.S. dollar holdings and a major expansion of foreign tourism, including through joint ventures.

The most dramatic effect of these measures was to greatly increase inequality on the island. Amid pervasive petty and not so petty corruption, the scramble for hard currency has come to dominate the lives of Cuba’s working people. Under the country’s dual currency system, workers are paid in domestic Cuban pesos, but most goods can only be purchased in special stores or on the black market using a currency called the convertible peso (CUC), which is valued at 24 Cuban pesos and is the currency used by tourists. This has forced most workers to take on second or third jobs to secure basic needs, in turn greatly affecting labor productivity. Cuba has also witnessed a resurgence of prostitution.

Those with access to hard currency through remittances from abroad, the tourist industry or other means now have much higher living standards than other Cubans. Among the latter are most Cuban blacks, who are far less likely to have relatives in Miami and are underrepresented in jobs in the tourist sector. While black people gained tremendously from the Cuban Revolution, many of these advances are being rolled back.

Beginning in 1996, Cuba managed to emerge from the depths of the Special Period and achieved some economic growth, albeit from a low base. In 2002, some 40 percent of the sugar mills, whose produce had earlier largely been exported to the USSR, were shut down in an attempt to diversify agriculture and feed the population. But with a continued lack of equipment and fuel and amid considerable disorganization, food production continued to stagnate. By 2006, 40 percent of the trucks available to the state agency responsible for procuring and distributing agricultural produce were out of service, and the rest were at least 20 years old.

With half of all agricultural land still unproductive, Cuba has to import 80 percent of its food, much of it from the U.S. An article by University of Glasgow professor Brian Pollitt summarizes the dire situation: “While Cuba’s sugar exports alone could finance the island’s total food imports some four times over in 1989, during the years 2004-06 her exports of sugar, tobacco, other agricultural products and fisheries combined could not finance even one half of her food imports” (International Journal of Cuban Studies, June 2009).

The Threat of Mass Layoffs

The economic lineamientos (guidelines) approved by the regime are all about improving economic performance through harsher conditions for the Cuban people. They state that it is necessary to “reduce or eliminate excessive social expenditure…and evaluate all activities that can move from a budgeted [state] sector to the business system.” In 2009, the government ordered the closing of all workplace cafeterias, while giving workers a wage increase of 15 Cuban pesos (about 70¢ U.S.). Meanwhile, the meager package of basic foodstuffs at cheap prices available through ration cards is being further reduced.

The new measures seek to foster greater investment by European, Canadian and other foreign companies by easing restrictions on offshore real estate ownership, including 99-year leases, and legalizing the sale and purchase of homes. Greater direct foreign investment through joint ventures and special economic zones is also contemplated. The reforms aim to encourage the growth of the hitherto very constrained private sector by various means: lifting restrictions on self-employment; loosening controls on the sale of private agricultural produce; and formalizing the existence of small private businesses in an attempt to regulate and tax the informal economy. These businesses will be allowed to hire labor outside their own families for the first time since 1968. Such measures can only lead to even greater inequality. They will also serve to increase the economic influence of right-wing Cuban exiles, as Cubans with families in the U.S. will be among the few with enough capital to launch businesses.

The campaign by a sector of the U.S. imperialists (centered in agribusiness) to relax the embargo while continuing to impose diplomatic/political pressure on Cuba points to another possible road to subverting the socialized economy: flooding it with cheap imports. This approach is in line with the long-standing policy of the West European and Canadian rulers. Cuba should of course have the right to trade and have diplomatic relations with capitalist countries. However, this underlines the importance of the state monopoly of foreign trade—i.e., strict government control of imports and exports.

The government says it expects that 40 percent of the workers who lose their jobs will redeploy into cooperatives, while the rest will be urged to set up small businesses, become self-employed or seek work elsewhere. A party document admits that a large proportion of new businesses could fail within a year due to lack of access to credit and raw materials. And the prospect of many workers getting by in subsistence occupations like food vending and shoe repair amid the ongoing economic troubles is grim, to say the least.

Wider autonomy is also being given to state companies, which will be expected to finance their own operations or be liquidated. As we explained in the context of the “market reforms” introduced in the final years of the Soviet Union, such measures impel state managers to compete with each other to buy and produce cheap and sell dear. This in turn tends to undermine the state control of foreign trade and further fuel pro-capitalist appetites among sections of the bureaucracy. As for the regime’s scheme for “perfecting state companies” by linking wages to productivity, this is just another name for piecework wages, which serve to undermine the basic social solidarity of the working class by turning workers into individual competitors for higher wages. Under Stalinist rule, such schemes, which pose economic anarchy and greater social inequality, are the only available “answer” to the distortions created by bureaucratic rigidity and commandism.

Origins of the Cuban Deformed Workers State

To understand Cuba’s current predicament, it is necessary to examine the origins of the deformed workers state. The guerrilla forces that marched into Havana under Fidel Castro’s leadership in January 1959 were a heterogeneous petty-bourgeois movement initially committed to no more than a program of radical democratic reforms. Importantly, however, their victory meant not only the downfall of the widely despised U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship but the shattering of the army and the rest of the capitalist state apparatus, allowing the new petty-bourgeois government wide latitude.

The new government had to confront U.S. imperialism’s mounting attempts to bring it to heel through economic pressure. When Washington sought to lower the U.S. quota for Cuban sugar in early 1960, Castro signed an agreement to sell a million tons yearly to the Soviet Union. The refusal by imperialist-owned refineries to process Soviet crude oil led to the nationalization of U.S.-owned properties in Cuba in August 1960, including sugar mills, oil companies and the power and telephone companies. By October of that year, 80 percent of the country’s industry had been nationalized. Cuba became a deformed workers state with these pervasive nationalizations, which liquidated the bourgeoisie as a class.

The forerunner of the ICL, the Revolutionary Tendency (RT) of the American Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in the early 1960s, was forged in the struggle for a Marxist perspective in Cuba. While defending the Cuban Revolution against imperialism, the RT sharply opposed the SWP’s adulation of Castro as an “unconscious” Trotskyist and the program of rural guerrillaism associated with the fidelistas and, earlier, the Chinese Maoists. As we wrote in the 1966 Declaration of Principles of the Spartacist League/U.S.:

“The Spartacist League fundamentally opposes the Maoist doctrine, rooted in Menshevism and Stalinist reformism, which rejects the vanguard role of the working class and substitutes peasant-based guerrilla warfare as the road to socialism. Movements of this sort can under certain conditions, i.e., the extreme disorganization of the capitalist class in the colonial country and the absence of the working class contending in its own right for social power, smash capitalist property relations; however, they cannot bring the working class to political power. Rather, they create bureaucratic anti-working-class regimes which suppress any further development of these revolutions towards socialism. Experience since the Second World War has completely validated the Trotskyist theory of the Permanent Revolution which declares that in the modern world the bourgeois-democratic revolution can be completed only by a proletarian dictatorship supported by the peasantry. Only under the leadership of the revolutionary proletariat can the colonial and semi-colonial countries obtain the complete and genuine solution to their tasks of achieving democracy and national emancipation.”

—“Basic Documents of
the Spartacist League,”
Marxist Bulletin No. 9

In the absence of the proletarian democracy of a state directly won by the working people, the decisive section of Castro’s forces made the transition to a bureaucratic caste resting atop the newly nationalized economy. By virtue of their newly acquired social position, the Castroites were compelled to embrace the ersatz Marxism (“socialism in one country”) that is the necessary ideological reflection of a Stalinist bureaucracy, in the process merging with the wretched pro-Moscow Popular Socialist Party, which had at one point served in the Batista government. The existence of the Soviet degenerated workers state provided a model and, more importantly, the material support that made this outcome possible.

The Cuban Revolution demonstrated yet again that there is no “third road” between the dictatorship of capital and the dictatorship of the proletariat. In this sense, it confirmed Leon Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution. But the Cuban Revolution was a far cry from the Russian Revolution of October 1917, which was carried out by a class-conscious urban working class, supported by the poor peasantry, under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party.

Cuba and the Soviet Collapse: Background to the Crisis

Contrary to the falsehood spread by various self-styled leftists that the USSR was an “imperialist” power, the Soviet Union was a workers state that issued out of the first victorious socialist revolution in history. Internationalist to the core, Lenin, Trotsky and the other Bolshevik leaders saw the revolution in economically backward Russia as the first step in a worldwide socialist revolution, crucially including the advanced capitalist countries. But the failure of a number of revolutionary opportunities in the period after World War I—particularly the defeat of the 1923 German Revolution—deepened the isolation of the Soviet state. This, combined with the economic devastation of World War I and the subsequent Civil War, allowed for the emergence of a conservative bureaucratic layer in the party and state apparatus.

Beginning in 1923-24, the USSR underwent a qualitative bureaucratic degeneration, a political counterrevolution in which the working class was deprived of political power. The nationally narrow conservatism of the consolidating bureaucratic caste was given ideological expression by Stalin’s promulgation in late 1924 of the theory that socialism could be built in a single country. This anti-Marxist dogma served as a rationale for increasingly blatant rejection of Bolshevik internationalism—leading to overt betrayal of proletarian revolutions abroad, as in the case of Spain in the 1930s—in favor of futile attempts to accommodate imperialism.

Despite bureaucratic rule, the workers state’s ability to marshal the economic resources of Soviet society through economic planning produced great advances, transforming the USSR from a backward, largely peasant country into a modern industrial power. That fact stands out ever more sharply today as the capitalist world is again mired in a global economic crisis. However, as Trotsky noted in The Revolution Betrayed:

“The farther you go, the more the economy runs into the problem of quality, which slips out of the hands of a bureaucracy like a shadow. The Soviet products are as though branded with the gray label of indifference. Under a nationalized economy, quality demands a democracy of producers and consumers, freedom of criticism and initiative—conditions incompatible with a totalitarian regime of fear, lies and flattery.”

Growing economic stagnation, exacerbated by the need to keep pace with U.S. imperialism’s massive anti-Soviet military buildup, came to a head in the 1980s. The regime of Mikhail Gorbachev introduced a program of market-oriented measures (perestroika), which precipitated the fracturing of the bureaucracy, including along national lines. In August 1991, seizing on a failed coup attempt by Gorbachev’s lieutenants, the openly pro-capitalist Boris Yeltsin seized power in league with the U.S. imperialist government of George H.W. Bush. In those pivotal days, the ICL issued and distributed more than 100,000 copies of a Russian-language statement calling on Soviet workers to “Defeat Yeltsin-Bush counterrevolution!” But decades of Stalinist misrule had left the proletariat atomized and demoralized, and the absence of proletarian resistance to the counterrevolutionary tide paved the way for the final destruction of the gains of the October Revolution.

The false notion that the Soviet Union was an exploitative “imperialist” power is completely disproved by its support to Cuba, which was crucial to that country’s economic progress. By the 1980s, the Soviet Union subsidized up to 36 percent of Cuba’s national income, bartering oil and its derivatives for sugar under extremely favorable conditions for the island. The huge advances in Cuban health care and education were also conditioned by the Soviet subsidies, which in the 1970s allowed the country to open free public universities, including medical schools in all of its 14 provinces.

After the USSR’s destruction, Cuban imports dropped by 80 percent and its Gross Domestic Product plunged by 35 percent. With no Soviet-supplied fuel, machinery or spare parts, half of Cuba’s industrial plants had to be closed, as the country underwent an economic collapse proportionally greater than the Great Depression in the U.S. We see here in the language of cold, hard statistics the historic gains that were made possible by the existence of the Soviet Union—and the disaster that unfolded with its destruction. This stands as a sharp indictment of the fake-socialist groups that made common cause with the Yeltsinite forces of imperialist-backed counterrevolution and now vituperate against Cuba’s “market reforms” as a sellout!

The “Chinese Model”

The introduction of “market reforms” has intersected and provoked hot debate among Cuban intellectuals on the road forward. Influential economists like Omar Everleny, deputy director of the Center for Studies on the Cuban Economy, applaud the proposed changes, arguing that they can bring modernization and indefinite economic growth. Everleny, among others, advocates following a Chinese- or Vietnamese-style economic model of encouraging foreign investment. Some others are concerned that “market reforms” might lead Cuba to the abyss, looking at the fate of the Soviet Union under Gorbachev’s perestroika policy.

In comparing China to Cuba today, it is important to note that by the last two decades of the Cold War (the 1970s and ’80s) China had become a strategic ally of U.S. imperialism against the Soviet Union. The Sino-Soviet split in the 1960s was a reflection on both sides of the counterrevolutionary implications of “socialism in one country.” The Chinese Stalinists’ criminal policy of allying with Washington against Moscow, which began under Mao, helped set the stage for the Deng Xiaoping bureaucracy’s opening of China to large-scale industrial investment by Western imperialism. In contrast, U.S. imperialism has remained implacably hostile to Cuba and shows no sign of easing its brutal embargo. This is despite overtures by the Havana regime, such as the release of over 120 right-wing “dissidents” beginning last year, in which the reactionary Catholic church played a crucial role.

Washington’s hardline stance toward Cuba not only blocks American investment, it also constricts investment from West Europe and Canada, given the long reach of U.S. extraterritorial law. Moreover, Cuba has neither the pre-existing industrial base nor the vast reservoir of cheap labor that fueled China’s economic advance over the past three decades. The idea that Cuba could successfully undertake an export-driven form of economic expansion via substantial imperialist investment is a fantasy.

Despite the pro-market measures introduced since the late 1970s, the main economic sectors in China (as in Cuba) remain nationalized and under state control. Large-scale investment by Western and Japanese corporations and the offshore Chinese bourgeoisie has, on the one hand, resulted in high levels of economic growth and a huge increase in the weight of China’s industrial proletariat, a progressive development of historic importance. On the other hand, “market socialism” has greatly increased inequalities, including the creation of a sizable class of indigenous capitalist entrepreneurs on the mainland, many with familial and financial ties to the Communist Party officialdom. This has made China a cauldron of economic and social contradictions and explosive labor unrest. Meanwhile, the imperialists continue to pursue a two-pronged strategy to foment counterrevolution, supplementing economic penetration with military pressure and provocations along with championing anti-Communist “dissidents.”

Cuban Bureaucracy: A Contradictory Caste

Against the views propounded by the likes of Everleny, others, both in Cuba and internationally, argue against following the “market socialism” model implemented in China, a country they consider to be capitalist or even imperialist. An example is the Liga de Trabajadores por el Socialismo (LTS), Mexican section of the Trotskyist Fraction-Fourth International (FT-CI), a split from the tendency led by the late Argentine political chameleon Nahuel Moreno. In a September 2010 statement on Cuba, the FT-CI writes: “Despite a ‘socialist’ and ‘anti-imperialist’ discourse, the ruling bureaucracy has for years justified the so-called ‘Chinese,’ or Vietnamese, ‘model,’ i.e., a program of marching toward a gradual process of capitalist restoration under the leadership of the PCC [Cuban Communist Party], and they are already taking measures in that direction” (

Contrary to what the LTS/FT-CI contends, there cannot be a “gradual process of capitalist restoration” either in China or in Cuba. Capitalist counterrevolution would have to triumph on the political level—in the conquest of state power. It would not come about through a process of ever more quantitative extensions of the private sector, whether domestic or foreign. The Stalinist bureaucracy is incapable of a cold, gradual restoration of capitalism from above. As the events in the Soviet Union in 1991-92 showed clearly, a major social crisis in a deformed workers state would be accompanied by the collapse of Stalinist bonapartism and the political fracturing of the ruling Communist Party. What would emerge from such a situation—capitalist restoration or proletarian political revolution—would depend on the outcome of the struggle of these counterposed class forces. The key to a working-class victory will be the timely forging of a Leninist-Trotskyist vanguard party rooted in the most advanced layers of the proletariat.

The LTS/FT-CI treats the Cuban bureaucracy as if it were committed to the destruction of the workers state. Thus it states that Cuba’s army, the Revolutionary Armed Forces, is “the vanguard of capitalist restoration” in Cuba today. This notion contradicts the very essence of Trotsky’s understanding of the Stalinist bureaucracy as a contradictory caste, a parasitic growth on the workers state and its collectivized property forms. With its stifling bureaucratism, lies, corruption and concessions to capitalism, the bureaucracy certainly helps prepare the way for a possible counterrevolution. But to label it (or a section of it) “the vanguard of capitalist restoration” is an outrageous whitewash of U.S. imperialism, the Catholic church, the counterrevolutionary Cuban exiles, and right-wingers within Cuba like the “dissidents” of Las Damas de Blanco (“Ladies in White”).

To cover its tracks, the LTS/FT-CI seeks to draw a distinction between the current ruling bureaucrats and Che Guevara, Fidel Castro’s comrade-in-arms. Like many others on the left, the LTS/FT-CI lauds Che’s “internationalism,” asserting in its article that he approached “a consistent strategy for international socialist revolution.” Guevara’s murder by the CIA in Bolivia in 1967 while leading a small band of peasant guerrillas makes him a heroic figure. But his peasant-based strategy, which has brought so many militants to tragic ends, was a flat rejection of Marxism, in no way distinguishable from that of other “Third World” Stalinist guerrillaists.

The LTS/FT-CI also endorses Guevara’s economic policies in the early 1960s, when he served as Minister of Industry, against Cuba’s more recent policies of economic liberalization and decentralization. No less than his fellow Stalinists, Guevara accepted the framework of “building socialism” on one small, poor and besieged island. What defined his economic views was a particularly voluntarist and utopian brand of Stalinism characterized by upholding “moral incentives” over material ones as a purported road to rapid industrialization. This led to gross misuse and squandering of material and human resources. In dismissing workers’ aspirations for decent living standards as “bourgeois ideology,” Guevara helped to enforce the Cuban government’s complete political disenfranchisement of the proletariat.

The LTS/FT-CI’s claim that capitalist restoration is underway in Cuba is designed to facilitate their dropping defense of the deformed workers state against counterrevolution, which is precisely what this outfit did two decades ago in supporting pro-capitalist forces in the USSR, East Germany (the DDR) and the East European deformed workers states. The LTS’s cothinkers in the Argentine Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas even raised the scandalous call for “the defense of the right of the German masses to unite however they wish, even if they decide to do so in the framework of capitalism” (Avanzada Socialista, 30 March 1990)! This amounted to a blank check for the capitalist annexation of the DDR by West German imperialism.

False Parallels to Lenin’s NEP

Some academic apologists for the proposed pro-market policies in Cuba have pointed to Lenin’s New Economic Policy (NEP), adopted in the Soviet republics in 1921, which allowed concessions to the peasants in the form of an internal market where agricultural produce would be exchanged for industrial goods. In his book Russia: From Real Socialism to Real Capitalism (2005), Cuban historian Ariel Dacal argued that “the great merit of this policy, albeit contradictory,” was as “an alternative for development against capitalism” in non-developed countries. Such views are echoed by sections of the left internationally. Making heavy reference to the NEP, a statement justifying the Cuban reforms by the U.S. Party for Socialism and Liberation asserts: “This is not the first time that a communist-led government has reverted to the expansion of a private market” (“A Marxist Analysis of Cuba’s New Economic Reforms,”

The Soviet NEP was not a model for sustained development but a temporary retreat after the devastation of the Civil War in a backward, overwhelmingly peasant economy in which industry had broken down and was utterly disorganized. While the NEP did succeed in reviving economic life, it also enriched a layer of speculators, small traders and well-off peasants, who became a corrosive influence on the apparatus of the workers state. The early NEP legislation, drawn up under Lenin’s direct guidance, had severely restricted the hiring of labor and acquisition of land. However, in 1925 these restrictions were greatly liberalized by Stalin’s regime. Trotsky’s Left Opposition, which formed to fight the growing bureaucratic degeneration, called to increase taxation of the rich peasants to finance industrialization and for the systematic introduction of large-scale, mechanized collective agriculture. By the end of the 1920s, as the counterrevolutionary threat from the new stratum of rich peasants and merchants brought the USSR to the brink of disaster, Stalin belatedly turned against his former ally Nikolai Bukharin and moved to collectivize agriculture, in his own characteristically brutal and administrative fashion.

Even as they implemented the NEP, Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks fought with all their might to extend the gains of October to the workers of the world. They built the Third (Communist) International to guide and unite the struggles of revolutionary Marxists internationally. Such policies are utterly counterposed to those of the Stalinists, who instead subordinate the interests of the world proletariat to their efforts to curry favor with “progressive” capitalist regimes.

Stalinism: Class-Collaborationist Betrayal

Cuba’s defiance of the U.S. imperialist colossus over the years has inspired large numbers of militant workers and radical youth in Latin America and elsewhere. But this does not mean that the Cuban regime is intrinsically more radical than its Stalinist counterparts elsewhere. During its first two decades under Mao, the Beijing regime was likewise viewed by impressionistic Western leftists as a revolutionary alternative to Moscow. We warned as early as 1969 against the growing objective possibility—given the tremendous industrial and military capacity of the Soviet Union—of a U.S. deal with China, a prediction which soon came to pass. The bottom line is that whatever their particular immediate policies and pressures, all Stalinist bureaucracies are characterized by class collaboration on the international level. Differences in posture and rhetoric are explained simply by the degree to which these regimes are under the gun of direct imperialist hostility.

The foreign policy of the Cuban bureaucracy has criminally betrayed the interests of the working masses of Latin America. In the 1960s, Fidel Castro supported bourgeois nationalists such as João Goulart in Brazil and saluted the Peruvian military junta as “a group of progressive officers playing a revolutionary role.” In the early ’70s, he endorsed Salvador Allende’s popular-front bourgeois regime in Chile, whose political and physical disarming of the proletariat paved the way to Pinochet’s 1973 military coup and the massacre of more than 30,000 leftists and workers.

When the masses of Nicaragua, under the leadership of the radical petty-bourgeois nationalist Sandinistas, overthrew the Somoza dictatorship in 1979, shattering the capitalist state, the road was opened to a social revolution. We said: “Defend, complete, extend the Nicaraguan revolution!” But Castro advised the Sandinista government to “avoid the early mistakes we made in Cuba,” such as “premature frontal attacks on the bourgeoisie.” The Sandinistas maintained a “mixed economy,” which meant that the capitalists were never destroyed as a class. With the U.S. bankrolling a dirty war by CIA-backed “contras,” the Nicaraguan bourgeoisie was able to reassert control a decade later, defeating the revolution. The net result of the Cuban leaders’ policies of “peaceful coexistence” has been the continued immiseration of the Latin American masses and further isolation for the Cuban Revolution.

Prominent among the pseudo-Marxist tendencies that have given political support to Cuba’s Castroite bureaucracy is the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) of Alan Woods. In recent years, Woods has been able to posture as a “Trotskyist” inside Cuba, including in occasional speaking tours. The precondition for such activities is the IMT’s outright adulation of Fidel Castro and its adamant opposition to the Trotskyist call for proletarian political revolution.

The IMT has a decades-long history of liquidation into social-democratic or outright capitalist parties, from the British Labour Party to Mexico’s bourgeois Party of the Democratic Revolution. Today, like the Cuban bureaucracy, Woods & Co. give political support to Venezuelan capitalist strongman Hugo Chávez and his supposed “socialism of the 21st century.” They write:

“The Venezuelan Revolution, together with Cuba, has provided a rallying point for the revolution in Bolivia, Ecuador and other countries. The initiative taken by President Chavez to launch the Fifth International, dedicated to the overthrow of imperialism and capitalism, should receive the most enthusiastic support of the Cuban revolutionaries. This is the hope for the future!”

—“Where Is Cuba Going? Towards Capitalism or
17 September 2010

Chávez, a former army colonel, came to power through the bourgeois electoral process and rules a capitalist state in which the Venezuelan bourgeoisie and the imperialists continue to carry on a booming business, however hostile Washington has been toward his regime. His piecemeal nationalizations do not challenge capitalist private property, any more than did nationalizations by other national-populist caudillos, such as Lázaro Cárdenas in Mexico in the 1930s or Juan Perón in Argentina in the 1940s (see “Venezuela: Break with Bourgeois Populism! For Workers Revolution!” WV No. 907, 1 February 2008). In passing off this bourgeois politician as “anti-capitalist,” the IMT does its own small part in keeping the Venezuelan working masses under the boot of imperialist plunderers.

Since 2000, Venezuela has been Cuba’s main trade partner, providing oil in exchange for some 20,000 Cuban doctors and teachers. Cuba’s present dependence on Chávez’s ability (and desire) to continue subsidizing his populist literacy and health campaigns by importing skilled Cuban professionals is, to say the least, an extremely unstable basis for economic survival.

Cuba at the Crossroads

In April 2010, a senior black Communist Party intellectual, Esteban Morales, director of the U.S. Studies Center at the University of Havana and a regular political commentator on Cuban television, wrote an article titled “Corruption: The True Counterrevolution?” He argued:

“When we closely observe Cuba’s internal situation today, we can have no doubt that the counterrevolution, little by little, is taking positions at certain levels of the State and Government. Without a doubt, it is becoming evident that there are people in positions of government and state who are girding themselves financially for when the Revolution falls, and others may have everything almost ready to transfer state-owned assets to private hands, as happened in the old USSR.”

A month after the publication of this article it was announced that Morales had been expelled from the Communist Party; following an appeal, he was reinstated this summer.

The Castro regime asserts that corruption originates with opportunistic individuals who have made their way into the state administrative apparatus, while the core of the historic Communist Party leadership remains irreversibly loyal to maintaining the Cuban workers state. In fact, corruption is a direct product of Stalinist bureaucratic rule, and it seeps into every pore of Cuban society. Everyone knows that if you know the right person you can obtain the necessary goods, so why work hard for nothing? Only a regime of workers democracy can instill the necessary labor morale, prevent bureaucratic misuse of resources and check tendencies toward capitalist restoration.

The Cuban regime has tried to shield itself against criticism through periodic purges and “anti-corruption” campaigns and has at times reversed some of its own “liberalizing” measures. This is not because these Stalinists are irrevocably committed to the defense of the collectivized economy. The Havana bureaucracy is not a social class; its components do not own stocks in state industry and cannot transmit ownership of the means of production to the bureaucrats’ heirs. Rather, it is a parasitic and contradictory formation balancing between the imperialist bourgeoisie and the Cuban working class. As Trotsky wrote of the Soviet bureaucracy, “It continues to preserve state property only to the extent that it fears the proletariat.”

Insofar as the Cuban Stalinists’ reform program creates a new layer of small capitalists, they will necessarily develop their own interests counterposed to those of the workers state. At the same time, it is possible that the regime’s moves will generate significant popular dissent and that the political hold of the bureaucracy will start to fracture, providing fertile ground for forging a Leninist-Trotskyist vanguard party among workers and advanced intellectuals seeking a road to authentic Marxism.

In outlining the road forward for the Soviet working class in the 1930s, Trotsky emphasized: “It is not a question of substituting one ruling clique for another, but of changing the very methods of administering the economy and guiding the culture of the country. Bureaucratic autocracy must give place to Soviet democracy.” The 1938 Transitional Program, the founding document of the Fourth International, laid out key elements of the program for proletarian political revolution, including:

“A revision of planned economy from top to bottom in the interests of producers and consumers! Factory committees should be returned the right to control production. A democratically organized consumers’ cooperative should control the quality and price of products.

“Reorganization of the collective farms in accordance with the will and in the interests of the workers there engaged!

“The reactionary international policy of the bureaucracy should be replaced by the policy of proletarian internationalism.”

An isolated and backward workers state, even one much larger and more resource-rich than Cuba, cannot reach, much less surpass, the levels of labor productivity in the advanced capitalist countries. Only successful socialist revolutions internationally, particularly in the imperialist centers, can eliminate scarcity and open the road to a world communist society. The ICL seeks to reforge the Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution, as the necessary leadership in this struggle.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

In Honor Of The Anniversary Of The Chinese Revolution-From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-"Women And Permanent Revolution In China"

Friday, October 01, 2004

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-"Women And Permanent Revolution In China"

Markin comment:

The following is a two part article from the Winter 1982-82 and Spring 1984 issue of "Women and Revolution" that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during Women's History Month and periodically throughout the year.


Women and Permanent Revolution
in China


"The revolt of women has shaken China to its very depths In the women of China, the
Communists possessed, almost ready made, one of the greatest masses of disinherited human beings the world has ever seen. And because they found the keys to the heart of these women, they also found one of the keys to victory over Chiang Kai-shek."

—Jack Belden, China Shakes the World (1951)

The French Utopian socialist Charles Fourier maintained that the liberty of women stands as a decisive index of social progress in general. Fourier was surely right. Compare the advanced capitalist societies formed by the bourgeois-democratic revolution with the backward capitalist societies of Asia and Africa. The elementary rights Western women take for granted— to choose one's marriage partner, contraception and divorce, access to education, not to speak of political rights—do not exist for women in the tradition-bound and priest-ridden countries of the East. And efforts to achieve such rights are invariably met with murderous reaction. By all accounts the feudalist insurgency in Afghanistan (against which the Soviet army fortunately intervened) was fueled, above all, by attempts of the left-nationalist government to reduce the bride price and to teach young girls to read.

In the twentieth century the backward countries can no longer be transformed through a bourgeois-democratic revolution. Indeed, the "democratic" imperialist powers, centrally the U.S., prop up the most reactionary, obscurantist regimes in the world from Chiang Kai-shek's China to Emperor Bao Dai's Vietnam to the Saudi monarchy. Only in those countries of the East where capitalism has been overthrown, in however bureaucratically limited or deformed a manner, do women enjoy elementary democratic rights. To cross the border from old Afghanistan, for example, into Soviet Uzbekistan is to traverse centuries of the oppression of women.

That women cannot be freed in the countries of the East without overthrowing capitalism was perhaps nowhere more clearly demonstrated than in the case of China. The democratic reforms Western feminists organized and agitated around—equal access to education, suffrage, access to contraception—were inconceivable in a country like China without a profound social revolution. Chinese women activists, including those initially influenced by Western feminism, were inexorably drawn into the broader currents of revolutionary radicalism, first that of modernizing nationalism and later that of Communism. The history of revolution in twentieth-century China is in no small measure the history of its women struggling for their liberation.

Modernizing Nationalism and the 1911 Revolution

The complete subjugation of woman in traditional Confucian China was proverbial. The Confucian Book of Rites prescribed that "to be a women means to submit." A women was totally subject to her father and later her (arranged) husband or, by convention, mother-in-law. Women were socialized to be not merely submissive but invisible. If someone came to her home when her husband wasn't there, a woman traditionally responded, "No one is at home." Women had no protection against flagrant physical abuse save community disapproval of an especially cruel husband. For many a Chinese woman the only escape from an intolerable family situation was suicide.

The oppression and social segregation of Chinese women was intensified by the hideous practice of foot-binding introduced in the tenth century A.D. The purpose of this painful and crippling process was to further restrict women to bedroom and kitchen. As a folk ditty put it, "Bound feet, bound feet, past the gate can't retreat." Contrary to a common misconception in the West, the custom was not limited to women of the upper classes. All Chinese women had their feet bound except those of the poorest families and of the non-Han ethnic minorities (e.g., Manchus, Hakka) among whom women generally had greater freedom.

The liberation of women from their total bondage was a fundamental aspect of the modernizing nationalist current which developed among China's intellectuals and officials at the end of the nineteenth century. A key target for these reformers and radicals was, understandably, foot-binding, which enlightened Westerners condemned (and rightly so) as barbaric. More important for nationalistic Chinese, it was commonly believed (without any genetic basis) that the male children of foot-bound women were physically weaker than Westerners. The movement against foot-binding was therefore largely motivated by the desire to produce a new generation of fighters against imperialist domination. In the 1890s Unbound Feet and Natural Feet Societies mushroomed throughout China. The membership of these societies, it should be pointed out, were almost entirely men. And where the reforming intelligentsia/officialdom were influential, the proportion of girl children with bound feet did diminish.

The same reformers and radicals who agitated against foot-binding also advocated education for women. Here again most were not concerned with sexual equality per se, but rather with overcoming China's backwardness vis-a-vis Western imperialism. They recognized that women who could read, write and do sums were a valuable national resource, even in their traditional role as mothers of male children. As one reforming official argued, "If the mothers have not been trained from childhood where are we to find the strong men of our nation" (quoted in Elisabeth Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China [1978]).

Whatever their personal outlook and motivations, these Westernizing intellectuals/officials set up the first schools for girls, often their own daughters, which produced a new Chinese woman who would play an important role in the subsequent revolutionary upheavals of her country. The new girls' schools were naturally hotbeds of anti-Manchu and anti-traditionalist nationalism. In Shanghai, Peking, Canton and elsewhere disciplined contingents of schoolgirls regularly participated in the mass protests against foreign privilege. In one such school a secret girls' militia was formed under the guise of physical education classes.

The outstanding woman revolutionary of the pre-1911 period was Chiu Chin (Jiu Jin). The oldest daughter of a scholarly family, she was allowed to study the classics with her brothers (not that uncommon a practice). In addition she was proud of her ability to ride a horse, use a sword and consume large quantities of wine. Despite this liberal upbringing, Chiu, like all Chinese women, was subject to an arranged marriage, which was not a happy one.

Influenced by the Western ideas sweeping the Chinese intellectual classes, at the age of 30 Chiu left her family and in 1904 went to Japan, then the main organizing center for Chinese revolutionary nationalists. Overcoming chauvinist objections that a cultured woman should not associate with men of the common classes, she became the first woman member of Sun Yat-sen's Restoration Society, the principal anti-Manchu organization. In 1906 Chiu returned to China where she divided her energies between putting out the Chinese Women's Journal, manufacturing explosives and organizing secret militias. Chiu saw in the women of China—so deeply oppressed under the old order—a kind of elemental vanguard force for national regeneration. Her outlook was encapsulated in a 1907 poem, "Women's Rights":

"We want our emancipation!
For our liberty we'll drink a cup,
Men and women are born equal,
Why should we let men hold sway?
We will rise and save ourselves,
Ridding the nation of all her shame.
In the steps of Joan of Arc,
With our own hands will we regain our land." ,,

—quoted in Wei Chin-chih, "An Early Woman Revolutionary," China Reconstructs, June 1962

One Western student of her political activities concluded:

"When Ch'iu Chin turned to revolution she anticipated ways in which women were eventually liberated in China. She implicitly recognized that sexual equality was
not likely to be achieved without some major structural changes, and saw the liberation of women as one result of the revolution to which she chose to devote her greatest energy."

—Mary Backus Rankin, "The Emergence of Women at the End of the Ch'ing: The Case of Ch'iu Chin" in Margery Wolf and Roxane Witke, eds., Women in Chinese Society (1975)

In 1907 Chiu was deeply involved in an abortive anti-Manchu uprising. Though warned that she was about to be arrested, she refused to flee. She was captured, questioned under torture (but did not reveal her colleagues) and was beheaded without trial. Her execution provoked large-scale demonstrations throughout China. Popular outrage over the martyrdom of Chiu Chin helped forge the spike that was driven into the heart of the hated Manchu dynasty four years later. And Chiu would have been pleased to see women's battalions too fighting the imperial forces as they went down to defeat.

It is common for contemporary Western feminist academics to label Chinese women activists of Chiu Chin's generation as "feminists," as does, for example, Elisabeth Croll in her valuable study, Feminism and Socialism in China. This is a case of ideological obfuscation. While there were women's journals in the pre-1911 period, there was no women's movement separate and distinct from the broader current of modernizing nationalism. Nor was women's equality seen as separable from the overall transformation of China into a modern society. Croll herself recognizes that the women activists of this period were first and foremost radical nationalists, an ordering of ideological priorities of which she is somewhat critical:

"Rather, the early feminists, who wrote the first magazines, thought that no question was so urgent as the threatened autonomy of China and the overthrow of the
Manchu dynasty and the foreign yoke of tyranny It is
particularly apparent from the early women's magazines and newspapers that the women contributors felt very deeply for their country, and the issue around which women first met, demonstrated and organised was that of 'national salvation'."

With the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty in 1911, China appeared to have become a Western-type parliamentary democracy. This was, however, a soon-to-be-discarded facade behind which rival militarists sought to fill the vacuum left by the disintegration of the imperial bureaucracy. Bourgeois-democratic politicians like Sun Yat-sen became mere playthings in the hands of one or another of the warring warlord cliques.

The immediate aftermath of the revolution witnessed the emergence of a genuine feminist movement consciously modeled on the British suffragettes. When the National Assembly refused to write women's equality into the new constitution, members of Women's Suffrage Association stormed the Assembly hall, smashed windows and floored some constables. These militant Chinese feminists also aggressively displayed Western social mores, which affronted the old China perhaps even more than their demand for equality under the law. The Chinese suffragettes were soon to discover that they were not living in a restricted bourgeois democracy like Edwardian Britain.

The now-republican militarists, and their landlord and usurer backers, were as ruthlessly committed t defending the old order, including the subjugation of women, as had been the imperial bureaucracy. In 191 a girl about to elope with a militiaman was arrested and publicly executed as a lesson to all women that the new republic did not mean "personal freedom to do what they like." With the consolidation of Yuan Shih-kai military dictatorship the following year, all suffragette organizations were banned and a number of wome activists found with arms were publicly beheaded. A new movement for women's liberation had to await new wave of revolutionary nationalism set into motio by the world war and the red dawn arising out of Bolshevik Russia.

From the May Fourth Movement to Communism

On May 4, 1919 huge student protests erupted Peking against Japan's 21 demands, which would have totally reduced China to a Japanese colony. The homes of pro-Japanese ministers were ransacked. The movement rapidly spread throughout the country, and a new note was sounded when factory workers struck support of the student demands for a new government. The May Fourth Movement went far beyond protest against the immediate Japanese threat or even the depredations of the imperialist powers in general, marked the beginning of a new wave of radical activism directed no less at the existing Chinese order th against foreign domination:

"Traditional ideas and modes of conduct were crumbling and the echo of their fall sounded from one end of the country to the other. Young men and women in towns and villages began to break with the old authority of the family and the village elders. A fissure opened between the generations that was never again closed."

—Harold R. Isaacs, The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution (1961)

High up among the traditional ideas and modes of conduct which came under attack was the subjugation of women. A manifesto issued by the most influential journal of the movement, Chen Tu-hsiu's New Youth, declared:

"We believe that to respect women's personality and rights is a practical need for the social progress at present, and we hope that they themselves will be completely aware of their duty to society."

—quoted in Croll, op cit.

And women responded to these ideas. The May Fourth ferment gave rise to the so-called "five proposals" movement: equal access to education and employment, suffrage and the right to hold office, the right of inheritance and the right to choose one's marriage partner. It should be emphasized that the struggle for the equality of women was in no sense regarded as women's work. When the Peking Alliance for Women's Rights Movement was established among university students in 1919, two-thirds of its members were men! For China's educated youth, the May Fourth Movement was a veritable political/cultural renaissance with which all could identify from the mildest liberal reformers to the most wild-eyed anarchists. However, the naive unity among China's New Youth could not last long. And it did not. Two of the movement's leading figures, Chen Tu-hsiu and Li Ta-chao, through contact with Soviet envoys, were soon won to Marxism and set out to organize a Chinese Communist party, which was formally founded in July 1921. The issue of Communism split the loose, heterogeneous organizations which made up the May Fourth Movement into hostile camps. The left wing became the core of the newly formed Communist Party (CCP); the right-wingers joined the bourgeois-nationalist Kuomintang or other national-liberal for¬mations like the Chinese Youth Party. One such right-winger recalled that after a stormy argument a friend who had just become a Communist left saying half jokingly, "Well, Shun-sheng, we'll see each other again on the battlefield" (quoted in Chow Tse-tsung, The May Fourth Movemen([1960]). These words proved to be prophetic.

The left-right polarization of the May Fourth Movement likewise extended to the women's movement. The more conservative women's groups stressed social work and legalistic reforms. Christian women activists, who had earlier vigorously opposed Confucian traditionalism, now increasingly defended the status quo against "red revolution." During the 1920s the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) became a kind of conservative, pro-imperialist anti-pode to the Women's Department of the Communist Party. One of the leading lights of the Chinese YWCA was a young heiress recently returned from Wellesley, Soong Mei-ling, later better known to the world as Mme. Chiang Kai-shek.

The outstanding woman revolutionary of this period—who embodied the transition of May Fourth radicalism to Communism—was Hsiang Ching-yu (Xiang Jingyu). In 1915 at the age of 20 she opened the first coeducational primary school in Changsha, capital of Hunan province, and also organized an anti-foot-binding society. She was naturally caught up in the May Fourth Movement (as was a fellow Hunanese student activist named Mao Tse-tung). In 1919 Hsiang, along with some friends, went to France to continue her studies. To pay her way she worked in a rubber plant and then a textile mill, thus acquiring first-hand knowledge of a highly class-conscious proletariat. In France she (along with Chou En-lai) organized a Marxist study group which later developed into an organization of Chinese Communist student youth abroad.

Expelled from France for political agitation, Hsiang returned to China in early 1922 and immediately joined the Communist Party. She was elected to the party's central committee at its second congress in 1922 and a year later became the head of its newly formed Women's Department. The Communists thus became the first Chinese party to organize women as a distinct oppressed group.

Like most other newly formed Communist parties in the colonial world, the CCP's original cadre were recruited from the radical intelligentsia. To win over the best women activists, Hsiang polemicized against Western-style feminism which had gained a certain currency in Chinese intellectual circles at the time. (Margaret Sanger, for example, visited China in 1922 and lectured at Peking University.) Hsiang insisted that "the new-emerging labouring women are the strongest and most revolutionary," and she charged the feminists that they "have not the courage to take part in the real political movement—the national revolutionary movement—the prerequisite to the movement for women's rights and suffrage" (quoted in WangYi-chih, "A Great Woman Revolutionary," China Reconstructs, March 1965).

China's newly emerging laboring women would certainly demonstrate their revolutionary force in the next few years. However, the program of a "national revolutionary movement," implying as it did collaboration with a supposedly "progressive" wing of the Chinese bourgeoisie, would lead the youthful Communist movement into an historic defeat in which Hsiang among countless others would lose their lives.

Revolution and Counterrevolution, 1925-27

The fate of the women's movement and revolutionary mass movement in general was to a large extent determined by the bloc between the inexperienced Communist Party and the bourgeois-nationalist Kuomintang. At the prodding of the Comintern (Communist International) representative, Maring (Hendrik Sneevliet), in 1923 the Communists entered Sun Yat-sen's party as individuals, originally intending to take short-term advantage of the Kuomintang's loose structure. (Significantly, Trotsky voted against this policy in the Russian party leadership.) At first the entry tactic appeared highly successful as Communist influence grew by leaps and bounds.

The Canton general strike/boycott directed against the British in the summer of 1925 marked the beginning of the second Chinese revolution and consequently the beginning of the decisive conflict between the Kuomintang leaders and the" Communists. The nationalist bourgeoisie suddenly became frightened of the powerful Communist-influenced labor movement it had helped to mobilize in extracting concessions from the imperialists. In March 1926 the commander of the Kuomintang armed forces, Chiang Kai-shek, staged a coup in Canton. Chiang's coup was a clear signal that the bourgeois nationalists were about to behead the workers movement. Despite this (and the strident warnings of the Trotskyist opposition in Russia) the Stalin/Bukharin leadership of the Comintern ordered the Chinese Communists to preserve the bloc with the "patriotic" bourgeoisie at all costs. The cost was the Chinese revolution which over the next year and a half was drowned in blood, first by Chiang and then by the "left" Kuomintang leaders.

Far more centrally than the anti-Manchu revolution of 1911, the betrayed and defeated Chinese revolution of the 1920s posed the issue of women's liberation. No area of Communist activity was more spectacularly successful than its work among women. Within two years of its founding the Women's Department of the CCP had 100,000 members; by 1927 it had 300,000 members. In 1924 International Women's Day in Canton—the Communist/nationalist stronghold— drew less than a thousand. Two years later 10,000 women marched through the city under the slogans "Down with imperialism," "Down with warlords" and "Same work, same pay." The Communist organization of women simply swamped the small bourgeois feminist groups, like the Women's Rights League, and in doing so won over their most committed activists. An American feminist academic, not sympathetic to Marxism, acknowledges that by the mid-1920s, "More and more women activists were moving toward the position held by Hsiang Ching-yu in 1922: feminist rebellion was meaningless without general political revolution" (Suzette Leith, "Chinese Women in the Early Communist Movement" in Marilyn B. Young, ed., Women in China [1973]).

At the height of the revolutionary upsurge in 1926-27 an estimated million and a half women were members of women's organizations generally led by Communists. These organizations were tribunes of the oppressed in the truest sense. Runaway slave girls, prostitutes wanting to leave their degrading profession, peasant women abused by their husbands, as well as women factory workers, flocked to these organizations with their grievances. For some observers, aware of the traditional total submissiveness of Chinese women, the eruption of an aggressive women's movement was the clearest proof that age-old China was undergoing a revolution. A sympathetic Westerner wrote at the time:

"Whatever the fate in store for the Nationalist government, it may be that historians of the future will find that the greatest and most permanent achievement to its credit has been the promotion of the women's movement."

—H.O. Chapman, The Chinese Revolution, 1926-27 (1928)

The demands made upon the Communist-led women's organizations far exceeded their material capacities. Even a relatively straightforward task like finding alternative livelihood for tens of thousands of prostitutes and concubines required the economic resources of a government department. And, in fact, many Chinese women looked upon the Women's Department of the Communist Party as if it were the women's department of a soviet government. (In some areas women's groups set up their own divorce courts.) Yet the fatal policy of limiting the revolution to bourgeois-democratic tasks prevented the establishment of a Chinese soviet government. And it likewise condemned the women's movement, despite the radicalism of its participants, to acting as a pressure group upon "anti-imperialist" militarists, landlords and factory owners whose idea of the role of women was shaped by the Confucian Book of Rites and the requirements of hoped-for capitalist stability.

The emergence of a militant women's movement in a society like China was bound to produce a conservative backlash. And so it did. This was aggravated by the overzealousness of some women activists. Older, conventionally minded women had their hair bobbed or feet unbound often under considerable pressure, if not by actual force. Over and above such excesses, however, many a peasant husband deeply resented his wife taking their family problems to the local women's group. And even some Communist fathers still insisted on arranging marriages for their daughters. These backward prejudices against women's equality served as an important point of support for the gathering white terror. Horror stories about "the wild, wild women" (that they organized women to march naked in the streets) became a major theme—if not the major theme—of anti-red propaganda.

And when the ax fell, it fell with especial force on the women's movement. Women's movement activists were, if anything, treated more savagely under the Kuomintang terror than even labor organizers or agrarian agitators. China's militarists, gentry and bourgeoisie could understand why peasants would want to stop paying rent or factory workers strike for higher pay and shorter hours. But the demand of women for independence and equality was radically new and appeared to them as a truly sinister attack on their entire social universe. So they reacted accordingly.

For a woman to have short hair now became a crime punishable by a painful death. Women wearing men's clothing were stripped to the waist in public so that "every man in town may see she is in reality a woman" before being killed. Girl Communists in Canton were wrapped in cotton blankets soaked in -gasoline and then burned alive. A particularly audacious young women's leader in a small Hunan village was hacked to death by enraged soldiery. Between 1927 and 1930 tens of thousands of Communist women were killed, among them Hsiang Ching-yu. She was arrested in the French concession of Hankow and turned over to the Kuomintang to be executed.

Yet the spirit of rebellion of those young Chinese women who had rallied to the Communist banner wa not broken. One of them wrote in a poem on the eve of her execution: "Red and White will ever be divide" and we shall see who has victory, who defeat."


Part Two will contrast the role of women unde Kuomintang reaction and in the rural areas liberated b the Communist-led Red Army. It will recount th struggle for women's liberation as a motor force in th civil war which culminated in the victory of Mao's Red Army in 1949. And it will discuss the effect of thi deformed social revolution on the traditional Chinese family and the place of women in society."


Women and Permanent Revolution
in China

This is the conclusion of a two-part article. Part One (Women and Revolution No. 25, Winter 1982-83) covered the interrelation of women's liberation and social revolution from the emergence of a modernizing nationalist movement in China in the late nineteenth century through the defeated revolution of 1925-27.


That women cannot achieve elementary democratic freedoms in the countries of the East without overthrowing capitalism is perhaps nowhere more clearly demonstrated than in China. The Kuomintang counter-revolution in the late 1920s was directed with especial savagery at the radical women's movement. Tens of thousands of Communist and other women activists were raped, tortured and killed for the "crime" of wearing short hair or men's clothing. During the 1930s the Kuomintang militarists sought to reimpose traditional Confucian subjugation upon Chinese women.

This mass of oppressed women would provide much of the social dynamite which blew away Kuomintang China in the civil war of 1946-49. In the rural areas liberated by the Red Army, women were mobilized to fight for their emancipation. While these measures would not have been radical in Shanghai or Canton with their modern industrial proletariat and Westernized intelligentsia, Communist "woman-work" had a radical impact in the primitive tradition-bound villages of Kiangsi (jiangxi) and Shensi (Shaanxi).

However, between 1937 and 1946 Mao's Red Army entered into an alliance with the Chiang Kai-shek Kuomintang regime, one of the conditions for this being that the Communists stopped the confiscation of the landlords' property. This policy basically froze the old social order in the countryside, perpetuating the enslavement of peasant women to housework and husband. Only when the civil war forced the Chinese Stalinists to place themselves at the head of the agrarian revolution did the mass of peasant women achieve the basis for social emancipation. And it was only after the Communists conquered state power in 1949 that the feudalist garbage suffocating Chinese women (ar¬ranged marriages, foot-binding, female infanticide) was swept into the dustbin of history.

Yet the People's Republic of China was the product of a bureaucratically deformed social revolution, and that deformation imprinted itself on all aspects of social life, not least the woman question. Like its counterpart in the USSR, the Chinese Stalinist (Maoist) regime has perpetuated and defended the most basic institution of women's oppression—the family. The Stalinists' conservative attitude toward the family was further reinforced in China by the peasant-based nature of the revolution. For unlike the urban proletariat, for the peasantry, the family is the existing unit of small-scale agricultural production. And this continues to be thecase today on the collective farms.

The gradual replacement of oppressive family functions by social alternatives (communal laundries, childcare facilities, etc.)—the precondition for the complete equality of women—is not a matter of voluntarism and cannot be achieved within an isolated, backward country like China. It requires a level of economic productivity far above even the most advanced capitalist country. Thus the liberation of women—a basic condition for a genuinely socialist society—demands the international extension of proletarian revolution, i.e., the heart of Trotsky's program of permanent revolution.

Women Under Red Army Rule

To escape the white terror which followed the crushing of the 1925-27 revolution, armed Communist bands retreated to the more inaccessible reaches of the vast Chinese countryside. In 1931 a number of these Communist-led forces consolidated into the Kiangsi Soviet Republic in south-central China under the leadership of Mao Tse-tung and Chu Teh.

In abandoning the cities to take the road of peasant-guerrilla warfare the Chinese Communist Party changed not only the environment in which it operated but its own nature. In the 1920s the CCP had been a revolutionary proletarian party supported by the radicalized urban intelligentsia. That is, it was based primarily on the most advanced, Westernized sections of Chinese society. During the 1930s the Communist Party became essentially a peasant-based military force with a declassed petty-bourgeois leadership.

In September 1930 the Bolshevik "International Left Opposition" led by Leon Trotsky issued a "Manifesto on China" which warned against the Chinese Stalinists' abandonment of the urban working class. The Left Opposition, which included a substantial number of Chinese Communists, recognized the need for a period of retrenchment following the brutal crushing of the 1925-27 Chinese Revolution and the strategic nature of all decisive moments follows either the bourgeoisie or the proletariat— Soviets are the organs of power of a revolutionary class in opposition to the bourgeoisie. This means that the peasantry is unable to organize a soviet system on its own— Only the predominance of the proletariat in the decisive industrial and political centers of the country creates the necessary basis for the organization of a Red army and for the extension of a soviet system into the countryside. To those unable to grasp this, the revolution remains a book closed with seven seals."

The social transformation of the CCP had a highly contradictory effect on the CCP's approach to the woman question. On the one hand, the most basic measures (e.g., teaching women to read and practice basic hygiene, elimination of foot-binding) had a profoundly radical impact on the backward villages of Kiangsi and Shensi. At the same time, the Mao leadership was concerned not to affront the traditional social mores of the peasant men, especially those serving in the Red Army, upon whom they depended for their very survival. Thus, "woman-work" in the liberated areas was cautious and conservative in comparison to the radical Communist-led women's movement which had been a major force in the 1925-27 revolution.

If the Kiangsi Soviet did not actually experience "a sexual revolution," the condition of women certainly improved, in some ways radically. Slavery, concubinage and prostitution were outlawed. The war against the Kuomintang in itself tended to break down the traditional role of women. While few women served as combat troops, many were attached to the Red Army as nurses, porters, couriers, laundresses, etc. Perhaps more importantly large numbers of women were encouraged to work in the fields for the first time in order to free up men to fight in the Red Army. The Kuomintang reactionaries hated and feared the signs of women's liberation which they saw in Kiangsi. The accusation that the Reds practiced "free sex" and "debauchery" was a major focus of anti-Communist propaganda.

In late 1934 the Kuomintang armies, advised by a German general, finally broke through and destroyed the Kiangsi Soviet. The core of the Red Army retreated in the heroic Long March of 6,000-8,000 miles. A year later the survivors reached the relative safety of the Yenan area in northern Shensi province. This region, near Mongolia, was one of the poorest, most backward in all China. Almost all women were illiterate, modern medicine was unknown, foot-binding and female mfanticide were common practices. The participation of women in agricultural production (based on winter wheat and millet rather than rice) was lower than in almost any other region of China. Thus, the contradictions which had characterized the CCP's "woman-work" in Kiangsi were reproduced in a more extreme form in Yenan. The commissar of education, Hsu Teh-|ih, explained to American journalist Edgar Snow:

"This is culturally one of the darkest places on earth. Do you know the people in north Shensi and Kansu believe that water is harmful to them?...

"Such a population, compared with Kiangsi, is very backward indeed. There the illiteracy was about 90 percent, but the cultural level was very much higher, we had better material conditions to work in, and many more trained teachers— "Here the work is very much slower." —Red Star Over China (1937)

However, the slow pace of the social transformation in Yenan was not due simply to its extreme economic and cultural backwardness.

As it became increasingly clear that Japan was about to invade China from its Manchurian base, Mao raised the call for a "National Anti-Japanese Front" based on cooperation between the Kuomintang and CCP. Chiang at first rejected this overture, but pressure from his fellow militarists (one of whom kidnapped the Generalissimo until he relented) forced him to negotiate an agreement with the Communists in September 1937, a few months after the Japanese imperial army crossed the Marco Polo bridge and invaded China.

Central to the CCP-Kuomintang agreement was a ban on the confiscation of landlords' property in the areas under Red Army control. The Communists would henceforth limit themselves to rent and interest reductions and similar palliatives. This policy was codified in a 1942 CCP document whose counterrevo¬lutionary intent is entirely unambiguous:

"Recognize that most of the landlords are anti-Japanese, that some of the enlightened gentry also favour democratic reforms. Accordingly, the policy of the Party is only to help the peasants in reducing feudal exploitation but not to liquidate feudal exploitation entirely, much less to attack the enlightened gentry who support
democratic reforms

"The guarantee of rent and interest collection and the protection of the landlord's civil, political, land, and economic rights are the second aspect of our Party's land policy."

—"Decision of the CC on Land Policy in the Anti-Japanese Base Areas" (28 January 1942) reproduced in Conrad Brandt et al., eds., A Documentary History of Chinese Communism (1966)

The policy not to liquidate the landlords' exploitation of the peasantry had a profound and negative effect on the position of women. Since women could not own land (the major source of income in Yenan), they remained economically dependent on their husbands, fathers, brothers, etc. If her husband ordered her to stay home and take care of the house and children, a peasant woman had no practical recourse. For women, the legal right of divorce was meaningless without an alternative means of livelihood. Thus, during the popular front period the mass of women under Red Army rule remained tied to housework as they had for centuries. In her scholarly study, Woman-Work (1976), Delia Davin concludes that "it was still unusual for them [women] to work on the land on any scale until the time of land reform." The Mao regime did promote home industry, especially for textiles, and to some degree this provided women with an independent income. But as long as property relations in the Chinese countryside remained unchanged, the mass of Chinese women would remain unliberated. The manifest gap between communist, and even democratic, principles and social reality in the misnamed Yenan Soviet Republic would soon produce dissension within the Communist camp.

Debate Over the Woman Question in Yenan

Following the Japanese invasion large numbers of radical student youth and leftist intellectuals made their way from the cities to Yenan. In part they were escaping Japanese and Kuomintang repression and in part they wanted to fight Japanese imperialism. Chiang's armies were notoriously corrupt and incompetent, and the Red Army was widely seen as the only effective anti-Japanese force in China.

Prominent among the newcomers to Yenan was Ting Ling (Ding Ling), the best-known leftist woman writer in China. As a teenage girl she had been a family friend of Hsiang Ching-yu, the founding leader of the Communist women's movement, who was killed in the white terror of the late 1920s. Later Ting Ling became a protege of Lu Hsun, universally regarded as China's greatest modern man of letters. Ting thus represented the avant-garde of China's radical intelligentsia.

Many of the newcomers, like Ting, were disappointed when life in Yenan did not measure up to their idea of what a Soviet Republic should be. They gradually developed into a dissident current or milieu, which one commentator termed the Yenan "literary opposition." They criticized the sterility and .dogmatism of official Communist propaganda, the tendencies toward bureaucratic commandism and the exceedingly slow pace of social transformation. But basically the dissident intellectuals objected to certain effects of Mao's peasant-guerrilla strategy and the alliance with the Kuomintang but did not challenge these underly¬ing policies.

The Mao regime crushed the "literary opposition" in the so-called "rectification campaign" of 1942-44. A major target for "rectification" was the views Ting Ling expressed in a 1942 essay, "Thoughts on 8 March" (International Women's Day). (This essay was reproduced in translation in New Left Review, July-August 1974, from which we quote.) Here she criticized the Mao leadership for retreating from the struggle for sexual equality. Ting contended that women in Yenan, while certainly better off than in the rest of China, remained unemancipated. Despite the "free-choice marriage" laws, social pressure forced most women to marry anyone who would have them:

"But women invariably want to get married. (It's even more of a sin not to be married, and single women are even more of a target for rumors and slanderous gossip.) So they can't afford to be choosy, anyone will do—"

Once married, Ting went on, women were pressured into having children whether or not they really wanted to. In this way they were forced back into a life of housework, curtailing their political activity and education. Then they were accused of "backward-
ness," a standard ground for husbands suing their wives for divorce:

"Afraid of being thought 'backward', those who are a bit more daring rush around begging nurseries to take their children. They ask for abortions, and risk punishment and even death by secretly swallowing potions to produce abortions. But the answer comes back: 'Isn't giving birth to children also work? You're just after an easy life, you want to be in the limelight. After all, what indispensable political work have you performed?'... Under these conditions it is impossible for women to escape this destiny of 'backwardness'."

The Maoists reacted strongly to these bitter barbs. Ting Ling was banned from writing and sent to "study" with the peasantry in order to overcome what they called her "outdated feminism." In 1943 a new CCP document on "woman-work" criticized "tendencies to subjectivism and formalism which isolate us from ordinary women" (reproduced in Davin, op. cit.). This document presents increased economic productivity as a cure-all for women's oppression. The actual retreat from the liberating goals of authentic communism expressed by this rather abstract document was spelled out in a speech by Kai Chang, a leading Maoist spokesman on "woman-work": "Our slogans are no longer 'free choice marriage' and 'equality of the sexes' but rather 'save the children', 'a flourishing family', and 'nurture health and prosperity'" (quoted in Davin, ibid.).

While condemning the bureaucratic way in which Ting Ling and her co-thinkers were treated, how are we to judge the substance of the debate? The Maoists argued in Yenan that a more radical policy on the woman question would have alienated the peasant masses, women as well as men. However, when a few years later the Maoists under the pressure of civil war confiscated the landlords' property and gave peasant women an equal share of the land, these women responded with unbounded enthusiasm. The agrarian revolution laid the basis for a revolution in sexual relations.

If the Maoists were guilty of opportunism, then Ting Ling can be convicted of idealist voluntarism. She appears to have been blind to the economic obstacles to social transformation in this most backward province and to the fundamental difference in social outlook between workers and peasants. Working-class and professional women were potentially in a position to be economically independent of their menfolk, and this shaped their consciousness. But the peasant women of Yenan had no independent means of livelihood. How could a young woman who left her father's home and chose to remain single support herself? How could an older woman with young children survive if she abandoned an abusive husband? Ting expected and demanded for the Yenan area full sexual equality in advance of the nationwide political and social revolution which alone could bring this about. Some of the policies advocated by Ting in 1942 were in fact carried out after the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China (a bureaucratically deformed workers state) in 1949. But this required that the Maoists break their alliance with Chiang and place themselves at the head of an agrarian revolution which they had previously sought to suppress.

Women Under Kuomintang Reaction

Whatever the limitations, contradictions and retreats of Communist "woman-work" in Kiangsi and Yenan, the difference between that and the policies of the Kuomintang was like day and night. The inability of the "national bourgeoisies" in the colonial countries to shatter the feudal past and carry through a bourgeois-democratic revolution was conclusively demonstrated in China. Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang, the dominant bourgeois force, depended on relics of the feudal past (the corrupt warlords, landlords, gangsters). The native bourgeois classes in the colonial world are unable to separate themselves from the entanglement with imperialist domination for fear of setting off forces— principally the anti-capitalist struggle of the workers, in alliance with the peasantry—which will sweep them from power as well.

While the immediate target of the Kuomintang counterrevolution was "the Red menace," anti-Communism was soon extended to attacks on "decadent" Western liberalism in all its manifestations, especially on the woman question. In 1934 Chiang launched the New Life Movement based on an amalgam of Neo-Confucian, Christian and European fascist ideologies. The New Life which Chiang prescribed for Chinese women was the Kuomintang equivalent of the Nazis' "Kinder, Kuche, Kirche" (children, kitchen, church).
Here is how the leading ideologue of Neo-Confucianism, Lin Yu-tang, defined the role of women in society:

"There are talented women as there are talented men, but their number is actually less than democracy would have us believe. For those women, self-expression has a more important meaning than just bearing children. But for the common people, whose number is legion, let the men earn the bread to feed the family and let the women bear children— Of all the rights of women, the greatest is to be a mother."

—quoted in Elisabeth Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China (1980)

A leading inspirer and organizer of the New Life Movement was Madame Chiang Kai-shek, one of China's wealthiest women and a Wellesley graduate, who declared that "virtue is more important than learning." It is poetic justice that some of the hoary Neo-Confucianists around Chiang's court criticized Madame Chiang herself as too Westernized and attacked her public political appearances as "immod¬est" (sort of the Phyllis Schlafly of her day)!

The moral climate in Kuomintang ruling circles is well depicted in the memoirs of writer Han Suyin, who was trained abroad as a doctor. Han returned to China in the late 1930s to marry an officer on Chiang's staff, who constantly admonished her that "a woman of talent is not a virtuous woman" and that "to contradict your husband is a sign of immorality" (Birdless Summer [1968]).

If this is how the women of the educated elite were treated, one can imagine the situation facing women of the lower classes. Behind a faqade of bourgeois-democratic laws, a carryover from the revolutionary upheaval of the 1920s, the subjugation of the mass of Chinese women was fundamentally unchanged from the days of the Manchus or, for that matter, the Mings.

Deformed Social Revolution and Women's Liberation

It is now widely recognized that the American nuclear bombs that incinerated Hiroshima and Naga¬saki in August 1945, even though Japan was ready to surrender, were dropped mainly to intimidate the Soviet Union. An even more immediate target for the American imperialists were the Chinese Communists. Having fought and defeated Japanese imperialism in large part to dominate and exploit China, the U.S. was not about to let Mao's Red Army stand in its way. With the guidance and support of Washington, Generalissimo Chiang was supposed to physically annihilate the Communist-led forces. For a year following the Japanese surrender the Generalissimo consolidated his position while spinning out phony negotiations with the CCP for a coalition government. Then in mid-1946 Chiang struck, initially with great effect. The Red Army was driven out of central China entirely and had to retreat on all fronts.

Stalin, as usual, was prepared to sacrifice his foreign "comrades" for the sake of "peaceful coexistence" with U.S. imperialism and its allies (in this case, Chiang's China). The Great Helmsman in the Kremlin later told Yugoslav Communist Eduard Kardelj that he advised the Chinese comrades to "join the Chiang Kai-shek government and dissolve their army" because "the development of the uprising in China had no prospect" (quoted in Stuart Schram, MaoTse-tung [1966]). Stalin's advice to the Chinese "comrades" was in effect that they commit suicide.

With their survival at stake the Maoists finally unleashed their most potent weapon: the mobilization of the Chinese peasantry against the landlords. A powerful wave of agrarian revolution carried the initially smaller Red Army, with its greater combativity and discipline, to victory over Chiang's forces, totally demoralized and grotesquely corrupt (Kuomintang generals sold food on the black market while their men went hungry).

Integral to the agrarian revolution and Red Army victory was the liberation of women from their previous total economic dependency. The Agrarian Reform Law promulgated by the CCP in 1947 divided the land equally between men and women. Women were given their own certificate of ownership, if they so chose, or joint ownership with their husbands. The impact of this revolution in property relations on the women of the Chinese countryside was electrifying. American journalist William Hinton, an eyewitness to these events, reported some typical responses: "When I get my share, I'll separate from my husband. Then he won't oppress me any more." "If he divorces me, never mind, I'll get my share and the children will get theirs. We can live a good life without him " (Fanshen [1966]). Particularly strong partisans of the Communist land policies were widows for whom the traditional Confucian code prescribed suicide at the death of husbands and providers.

The civil war itslef reinforced the agrarian revolution in radically changing the postion of women in society. The transition for guerilla to large-scale positional warfare drew masses of men into the Red Army and so created labor shortages in many villages. Large numbers of women were thus drawn into agricultural production out of sheer economic necessity. According to Teng Ying-chao (Deng Yingzhao), a leader of the CCP-led Women's Association and also Chou En-lai's wife, whereas in 1945 it was still unusual for women to work in the fields, by 1949 in the older liberated areas 50-70 percent of women worked on the land. In some villages peasant women were the main activists in confiscating the landlords' property.

More than any other aspect of CCP policy, it was the mobilization of women which shocked the Chinese ruling class as it was being destroyed. In her memoirs, Birdless Summer, Han Suyin recounts the absolute horror with which the'Kuomintang ruling circles in their last days viewed the revolt of women in the liberated areas:

"They actually had women in the Red armies, girls dressed as boys and carrying guns! They encouraged slave girls and concubines to revolt against their masters! Their widows remarried! They did not insist on 'chastity'! They incited the peasant women to stand up and denounce their husbands misdeeds."

For China's rulers, these were among the worst of the "crimes" of the Communists.
A social system which had oppressed women for millennia was overthrown in the course of a few years of civil war. The first years of the People's Republic of China saw the effective elimination of foot-binding, the general establishment of free choice in marriage, mass campaigns to overcome illiteracy and the drawing of most women into work outside the home.

Yet Mao's China was the product of a bureaucratically deformed social revolution, and that deformation imprinted itself on all aspects of social and political life. The popular enthusiasm and authority which the Maoists gained by overthrowing the old order was dissipated through the insane economic adventurism of the Great Leap Forward (1958-60) and the bureaucratic delirium of the Cultural Revolution (1966-69). The deeply nationalist character of the Maoist regime eventually led it into an alliance with U.S. imperialism against the Soviet Union, dramatically signaled in 1971 when the Chairman embraced Richard Nixon as American B-52s bombed Vietnam. And today the "People's Liberation Army" is the main instrument by which the American ruling class seeks to wreak vengeance against the heroic Vietnamese people, who inflicted upon U.S. imperialism the most humiliating defeat in its history.

The deformed character of the Chinese revolution has naturally also affected the condition of women. To take but a few of the more glaring manifestations: the policy toward contraception and abortion has zigzagged between extremes, from practically eliminating any means of birth control during the disastrous Great Leap Forward to the present policy of pressuring women to have abortions they do not want in order to reduce the population. Official puritanism has the force of law, making premarital sex a crime. Many jobs are still typed by sex, and there is unequal pay for equal work, especially on the collective farms.

Women and Revolution, in an article on Maoism and the family (subtitled "In China, women hold up half the sky—and then some," W&R No. 7, Autumn 1974), wrote of both the historic achievements and fundamental limitations of Maoist-Stalinist China in furthering the liberation of women:

"The revolution has, among other things, given women legal equality, freedom of choice in marriage, greater access to contraception and abortion, a greater role in social production and political life and, for some, child care centers, dining halls and schools. It is indisputable that the lives of Chinese women, who in pre-revolutionary times were barely recognized as human beings, have been radically transformed and that Chinese women are less oppressed in many ways than are women in bourgeois democracies. "But while we note such gains and therefore call for the unconditional military defense of China against imperialist attack, we are also aware that China has not achieved socialism—a historical stage marked, among other things, by the withering away of the state—and that the Chinese bureaucracy sabotages those measures leading toward the emancipation of women which could be undertaken by the dictatorship of the proletariat in even a poor and underdeveloped healthy workers state. Chinese women, therefore, continue to be specially oppressed."

The key to understanding the interrelationship between the Chinese deformed workers state and the family lies precisely in the fact that while the bourgeoisie has been smashed and the means of production nationalized, the working class does not wield political power. The state is administered by a bureaucratic caste which, in order to maintain its undemocratic rule, must, among other things, rely upon and foster the nuclear family as one more point for reinforcing respect for authority.

Only a proletarian political revolution which ousts the Maoist-Stalinist bureaucracy, establishes workers democracy and places the resources of the Chinese workers state fully in the service of world socialist revolution can open the road to fulfilling the struggles for women's liberation which have been integral to the tumultuous history of China in the modern era. And only the Trotskyist program of permanent revolution offers the enslaved women of the East—from India to Iran to Sri Lanka and Indonesia—the path to emancipation."